How Often Should You Clean The Trumpet-HOW To Clean A Trumpet

How Often Should You Clean Your Trumpet? …And
HOW To Clean Your Trumpet

Many trumpet players are diligent students in the practice room but when it comes to washing the inside of the tubes, and the rest of the trumpet, they could be doing a much better job. Leaving the trumpet dirty for a long time could even be dangerous and cause a form of lung disease…

…but how often should you really clean your trumpet?

You should  use a cleaning cloth and wipe water stains off the outside a few times a week. When it comes to the inside of your trumpet, it depends on how much you practice, but a good rule of thumb is that you should wash your trumpet at least once every 6 weeks.

Failing to do this could be very unhealthy for your lungs so keep reading to learn more. I also give a more detailed answer down below.

In this article you are also going to learn exactly, step by step, HOW to wash your trumpet the right way, so you avoid messing anything up.

Why NOT Cleaning Your Trumpet Could Be Dangerous

Without knowing it trumpet players may inhale bacteria and even mold from the debris if they do not regularly wash the inside of the trumpet tubing. Of course this is true for all brass players and not just trumpet players.

In addition to this, having wet dirt inside the tubing can lead to corroding of the pipes and, with time, this could even form holes. Personally I had to change the lead pipe on my Bach Stradivarius because of this…

…when I was young and stupid.

Could Potentially Lead To Lung Disease

There was a study, published in chest magazine, warning brass players about this and how we, if we are unlucky, might develop a lung condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), a form of inflammation of the lung tissue.

The allergic lung condition, which can turn into a more dangerous fibrosis, is characterized by shortness of breath and coughing. If we have asthma or even mild asthma we are especially at risk for this.

As an asthmatic myself I make sure to regularly give my trumpet a nice and warm bath.

How To Eliminate The Risks

Every trumpet player on the planet must own a bendable trumpet brush to be able to get rid of the dirt and the debris from the inside of the trumpet pipes (slides and tubing) Trumpeters often refer to this brush as a “snake”.

It is called a snake because it can easily find its way inside all the crooks and bends, with the help of our pushing hand of course. The snake is cheap (only a few bucks) and can be found in every decent maintenance kit (click to check price on Amazon)

The Leadpipe Is More Important Than The Other Pipes

The leadpipe is the longest pipe on the trumpet, the one we insert the mouthpiece into.

Inside the leadpipe and inside the third valve slide is where most of the debris and dirt will get trapped. If you make a habit out of getting the dirt out of those two pippes more often, you can get away with doing it less frequently when it comes to the rest of the trumpet.

How Often Should You Clean Your Trumpet?
Some More Detailed Answers

The following is a rough guideline. Remember that if you brush the inside of the leadpipe more often, as well as wipe the outside of your trumpet with a soft cloth a few times a week, you can get away with washing the whole trumpet less frequently.

  • The lead pipe

-Once every 7-14 days

As i already mentioned the leadpipe needs to be taken care of more frequently than the other pipes and I personally run the snake through the ledpipe once every week. It only takes about 20 seconds and by doing this I can get away with doing the rest of my trumpet less often.

  • The outside

-Just quickly wipe it off a couple of times a weak with a soft polishing cloth

Every good maintenance kit you buy should also come with a polishing cloth. Use that polishing cloth to wipe off the water stains of your trumpet a few times a week. This is important since, if you leave them there too long, the stains can start to discolour the trumpet lacquer. When that happens, it is very difficult to get the trumpet nice and shiny again.

  • The rest of the tubing 

– Every 4-6 weeks if you practice a lot 

– Every 6-8 weeks if you practice 30-45 minutes a couple of times a week

Of course this depends a bit and there are several factors involved but how much times you spend playing the trumpet are the biggest factor. Anyway, those are some good general rules that will do the trick.

How To Clean A Trumpet Without The Cleaning Kit / Snake?

I often see people on different trumpet forums ask questions like…

  • How to clean the trumpet without a snake?
  • How to clean the a trumpet without the cleaning kit?

…and I have to admit that I cringe a bit when reading those questions.

The only way to clean the trumpet without a snake is to have warm water running through the slides and pipes…

…sure you would get some dirt to come out, but the problem is that a lot of it sticks to the inside walls of the trumpet tubing, and there is no way to get all of that out without using a snake.

The only way to get all of that debris, dirt and bacteria out is to run the snake back and forth inside the tubing while you also are using water. Sorry but the water alone is just not going to get the job done.

I really would wish that, rather than asking “how to clean the trumpet without a cleaning kit” or “how to wash the trumpet without a snake” the young trumpet players would just realize that owning a decent maintenance kit is just part of being a trumpet player…

…if playing the trumpet, it is a must have trumpet item, almost as important as owning a trumpet mouthpiece!

HOW to Clean Your Trumpet…
Step by step

Ok let’s start with the how to wash a trumpet part right away so you can get going…

STEP 1: Take The Trumpet Apart
Remove The Valves And The Slides

Carefully remove the three valves and the slides and put them on a soft towel
    • Carefully remove all three valves
      Put them on something soft to avoid scratching them because scratches on the valves could lead to them not working properly
  • Remove all the three slides
    If they are well greased they should easily come out. There should be no need for using force. Slide grease comes along with any decent maintenance kit you buy.

STEP 2: Fill a Bathtub/Sink/Container With Warm Water and Put Some Dish Soap In It

The water should be hot, but NOT so hot that you can’t hold your hands in the water!  Add a little bit of dish soap to the water…
  • The water should be warm but not so hot that you can’t keep your hands in it
    If the water is so hot that you can’t keep your hands in it, it might damage the lacquer on the trumpet
  • Do not put the vales in the water container. We want to avoid getting the felt pads, on the top of the valves, soaking wet
    The felt pads can potentially lose some of their shock absorbing properties if they get wet…not good!
  • Let the trumpet and the slides lie in the warm water for about 5-10 minutes
    This is to help dissolve the dirt, smudge and debris from the inside tubing walls

Ok So Let’s Get To The Inside Of The Tubing and Slides

Use the snake to get the slides and tubing free from dirt
  • Use the snake from the maintenance kit and run it through the inside of the slides and tubing.
    Move it back and forth a bit to really get all or the debris and bacteria out.
  • Continue with the pipes on the trumpet itself (the leadpipe and the first, second and third valve slides)
    This is pretty straight forward so no need for extra instructions here, just use the snake and gently brush the inside of the tubing

The Valves And The Valve Casing

Use a brush from the maintenance kit for the valve ports
  1.  Use the snake to get the dirt out of the holes in the valves.
    As you can see there are three ports in every vale and they need to be free from dirt as well.
  2. Remove the valve caps at the bottom of the valve casing on your trumpet
    They should come off easily if the trumpet is properly oiled
  3. Wash the inside of the valve casing
    Use another smaller valve casing brush, that comes along with every maintenance kit, and run it carefully through the valve cases
Get rid of the old oil and whatever sludge there may be in the valve casings by using a brush and running warm water

4.Wash off the old oil from the valves
Hold the valves under running warm water and use your hands to wash the vales to get all the old oil from them


Avoid getting the felt pads on the upper part of the valves wet and also be careful, if the snake has a sharp metal ending, (most of them should not have that though) just to make sure you do not scratch anything on the valves

But what if I don’t have a bathtub or a container big enough for the whole trumpet to fit?

Don’t worry. In that case just run warm water through the tubing ( uing your sink or shower) while you at the same time use the snake. You can put a small amount of dish soap on the snake before running it through the pipes…

…it might not be as effective as immersing the whole trumpet under water, for a few minutes, but it will be good enough.

STEP 3: The Inside Of The Bottom Valve Caps

Don’t forget the bottom valve caps. A lot of filth here. Warm water and a brush will do the trick!

Many people forget to brush the inside of the bottom valve caps. On some trumpets, not that much junk gets stuck there, but on other trumpets they can become quite ugly…

…so be sure to check how the bottom valve caps look on your horn!

  • Hold the valve cap under running water and use a brush to wash out all the dirt

STEP 4: Rinse The Whole Trumpet Body And All The Slides Under Warm Running Water

    • To get the last dirt along with the soap out, you should rinse the slides and the trumpet body (inside and outside) under running warm water (again, not too hot)
  • Also rinse the valves just to make sure there are no remaining soap

STEP 5: Wash The Outside Of Your Trumpet With A Soft Wash Cloth

    • Wet the cloth in water and gently start washing the body of your trumpet.
      If your trumpet is really dirty then you may use a little bit of dish soap on the cloth, but most of the time I only use water myself.
  • Do the same with the outside of the slides
    Do not forget to also wash and polish the inside of the bell…

…we want the bell nice and shiny =)

Step 6: Drying The Trumpet

polishing cloth
Dry the horn with a soft and suitable washing cloth
  • Use another dry soft cloth to dry the outside of your slides and the body of your trumpet
    Make sure the whole trumpet body is dry to avoid leaving water stains
  • Put the wet valves on a soft towel and let them air dry
    You can of course also use a cloth to dry the valves but just be sure that the cloth is soft in order to not scratch the valves. Do NOT use paper towels!

Step 7: Grease And Oil The Parts And Reassemble Your Trumpet 

  • Put a small amount of slide grease on your tuning slide and on the second valve slide
    After the greasing, leave them like this and do not put any valve oil on these two slides
  • Put an EXTREMELY THIN and small amount of slide grease on your third valve slide and spread it out with your fingers.
    It should be VERY thin. After this put some valve oil on it. (It is important to use a very smal amount of slide grease on the third vlalve slide because if you use too much the slide will get too sluggish and slow. That’s not good…we want this slide to be able to move fast and with ease)
  • After the valves and the valve casings have air-dried, oil your valves with your valve oil

Don’t Forget Your Mouthpiece!

trumpet mouthpiece brush
It’s important to get rid of the sludge here as well

Washing the mouthpiece is not that complicated and there is no need for a lot of instructions here.

Inside most trumpet maintenance kits there are also a small brush designed for the trumpet mouthpiece…

…don’t forget to use this brush to also fix the inside of your mouthpiece. Bacteria and debris get stuck in the throat and backbore of the trumpet mouthpiece…we want to make sure we get rid of that!

Use the mouthpiece brush while you keep the mouthpiece under running water. Move the brush back and forth until all the dirt and sludge is gone.

How often should you clean the trumpet mouthpiece?

I don’t think there is any point in giving any guidelines when it comes to days and weeks here. Just take the mouthpiece and hold it up against the light and look if there is dirt inside the throat. Then turn it around and look inside the backbore.

If there is alot of smut and dirt in there, well…

…you know what to do!

However I should add that sometimes the inside of the mouthpiece can be more dirty than it looks so I would recommend that you perhaps wash your mouthpiece a bit more frequently that you think’s necessary… just to be on the safe side.

What Trumpet Maintenance Kit Should I Get?

Don’t worry too much about that. As with everything else, as long as you don’t go for the absolute cheapest one, they are all decent and get the job done. I recommend this one, it has all the tools you need for getting the smudge and smut out of yout horn.

Conclusion And…
A Nice Shiny Trumpet

Washing the horn is perhaps not the most fun thing we can do but it is a necessary evil. We have to do it…

…there is just no way getting around it.

A horn without dirt inside the tubing resonates better, is easier to control, is not unhealthy to play and last, but not least…

…smells better =)

Forget the “how to clean trumpet without the cleaning kit question”

If you still are trying to find ways to clean your trumpet without a snake or without the cleaning kit, do yourself a favor and try to forget that. A good maintenance kit really is worth the investment.

Like I mentioned in the introduction, failing to wash you horn on a regular basis could even be dangerous and potentially cause lung disease…

…this is easily avoided with using a snake designed for getting the dirt out of the trumpet tubing.

Once you get your snake and the maintenance kit, don’t be lazy and fail to use it. Follow the frequency guideline that I outlined and there are ZERO risks of complications… and in addition to this, the trumpet both plays better and has a more resonant sound when there is no dirt and debris inside.

So wash your horn properly and keep it nice and shiny. You’ll be glad to do a job well done.

Thank you for reading the article and as always, keep practicing and remember to have fun while doing it!

-Robert Slotte-

P.S Perhaps you also would be interested in reading my article
26 trumpet plying tips on how to become a better trumpet player. It is full of unusual, helpful, practical, as well as theoretical and philosophical tips on how to become a better trumpet player. Take a look at it if you find the time.


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